In part 2 of this episode David King Landrith, Blake Ostler, John Hamer and I discuss the recent Sunstone panel entitled, “Inoculating the Saints”.
A big thanks, as always, to Clayton Pixton for providing the wonderfully inspirational bumper music for this podcast.
I think Blake comes across a LOT less…smug? Is that the right word? in the panel discussion. Also, I’ve been listening to an audio book, called “It’s Called Work for a Reason” by Larry Winget, that basically says the same thing as Blake about taking responsibility for your own life. He has the benefit, though, of being funny and using words like “dumb***,” which certainly makes the message more palatable.
It was good to hear this podcast starting off confronting Ostler. His response, at least, clarified that it wasn’t directed at converts. However, his comment that lifelong members haven’t been paying attention and are playing the victim sounded like a page from the Limbaugh school of rhetoric. It is the equivalent of saying impoverished people all should be able to pull themselves up and out very easily. It’s not that simple. His unapologetic admission of his insensitivity underscores his lack of compassion.
There are smart and thoughtful members who were very surprised and disappointed to learn assorted bits of the church’s past. Just because Ostler decided to look and see what was swept under the rug doesn’t mean it is as obvious to others. Leaders have discouraged exploration of these things. Ostler would do well to take a page from Covey, the one which reads: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Regarding the discussion of inoculation in general, it would require a major shift in church culture. The worst thing is not the facts of the history. The worst thing is the air of secrecy. On multiple occasions leader and member alike have held up a quad set of scriptures and said there is nothing one needs to know that is not contained therein. While this is not the attitude of all members and leaders, it is the culture that is the core of the church.
A short while after I was baptized many years ago, I was invited to particpate in a BBS (Bulletin Board System, the forerunner of the Internet, Blogs, etc) where I was confronted by anti-mormons making all sorts of claims against the Church. Rather than be shocked and hurt and disinfranchised, I decided to take the bull by the horns and learn about what they were saying. Some of the information provided by the anti’s was just flat out wrong, some was open to interpretation, some based on lack of knowledge about our doctrine and some was this kind of stuff that is being discussed – information not given during a standard SS or Priesthood lesson or available at Church..
As I researched each topic, amassed a huge stack of information, raided every DI and used bookstore west of the Mississippi, and asked questions of experts, I was able to address every single issue of concern. In some cases, I just got answers that satisfied me. In others cases, things were inconclusive and I just set it aside.
As I did it, I followed 4 simple rules:
1. The people telling me this stuff typlically did not have my best interest at heart. This is not always true, but has been generally true. In other words, why are they telling me this???
2. I gave the Church the benefit of the doubt. I thought that it was not likely the Church was deliberately hiding information, just trying to make things basic for a growing WW Church. For some of us, it is a bit too basic at this point, but I did not assign ulterior motives as it seems like some folks wish to.
3. I looked at the information and measured it against what is necessary to know for my salvation. After all, that is the main point, isn’t it? The Church exists to provide the saving ordinances of the Gospel and to bring people to Christ. How does knowing the exact location of Kolob or that Joseph had 30 plural wives contribute to my returning to live with my Father In Heaven? Mostly, it doesn’t. So why get all bent out of shape about it? I think I need to know more about the Atonement, which is harder to learn than the history.
4. Try not to measure what happened 100 or 200 years ago against today’s attitudes, mores, thinking, etc. This is a big mistake that people make. Money digging?, treasure seeking?, seer stones?. We have the same parallels today. Can you say Titanic? But you surely can’t judge the way people thought and acted back then with today. It’s too different.
Anyway, I enjoyed the podcasts and welcome anything the Church and others do to make information and truth available to members and non-members. It can only help, not hurt, even if it not that important in the grand scheme.
In response to what Blake said about information being available to church members – I ran across books like “No man knows my history” when I was a youth and was told by more than one church leader that they wer basically anti- literature. To the average member, its difficult to know whether a book is accurate or not – which is why the church needs to do a better job of informing its members. Book lists like the one given on a previous podcasts are so helpful to me, its hard to understand why the church does not give a list of its
This episode was much more interesting than the previous one. I agree that Blake came off better here. He does seem to ignore the charge that cj douglass makes in #4 that many sources that he read long ago were/are considered “anti” material and members are discouraged from reading them.
I still think that CES is the big culprit in this debate. If you’re going to go to the bother of having “academic” church classes then that is a great place for dealing with messy issues. In my experience CES instructors are as likely to deny that there is an issue as they are to engage this stuff.
It seems to me that this is a multi-part issue. Firstly, we are a “victim” of our own detailed history. There is so much information available, down to what clothes they wore that day, etc. that you can find out almost anything, except, of course, the date when the Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred on Joseph and Oliver. you just have to be willing to look for it. This means the good stufff and the warts. Try to find out what Moses did for fun! Second, The Church teaches the basics because it is the basics that save us, not knowing the JS had 30 wives. There is no higher degree of the Celestial Kingdom for those that know that. Thirdly, some people are not interested, in fact, most are not interested in the level of detail that is being discussed. And finally, the Members of the LDS Church know more about their history, more about the scriptures and more about their doctrine than most people of other faiths. Ask some Catholic what is behind the worship of mary and you are likely to get a blank stare. or what the Atonement is? In spite of the consternation about innoculation, Church members are better informed than most. But, I also agree that the Church needs to make information more readily available to those who seek it.
I enjoyed this cluster of episodes. The issue of innoculation is complex enough and important enough that it bears chewing on at length and from multiple perspectives. I’d vote for using this extended format again where the issues and circumstances permit.
As often is the case some of the best nuggets emerged spontaneously. The turbulence in the river about whether Blake is insensitive brought added insight to the main topic. Thanks to Ann for bringing it up to begin with. That it didn’t catch my attention is probably evidence that I’m insensitive. I am more aware as a result of the discussion.
Thank you to all of the participants! That busy, intelligent folks would share a bit of their time to communicate on topics that interest me is just cool. It reminds me of my own growing participation in civic affairs where I live. There is much to gain and much to learn by participating.
I would question the issue as not being one of insensitivity but a case of being very direct with regard to Blake’s opinion. In actual practice, I am sure he would not be so direct with a person who was really hurting and to just insist to them that they should have done their own research, etc. But the Symposium talk and the podcasts were “clinical” discussions of the issue and so it required a honest approach, which might come across as insensitive. Anyone who has been in a Bishopric or PEC meeting or a meeting about employee performance by managers knows that the conversations get very direct and would be construed as pretty brutal by the people being discussed. The outcomes of those meetings are delivered in a very different way. In other words, the podcasts are a discussion of the overall issue and not a discussion with someone who has an issue with the Church.
Not sure why WL would think Ostler lacks compassion for simply believing members should search things out on their own. Seems like you are choosing to take offense at something that should not be offensive (even if you see things differently than Blake).
This for me is a huge issue
Thus I read and listen to discussions about this topic. The podcasts were great. The varying views are interesting. All agree that members can feel betrayed and lied to when they discover things that are sticky and troublesome. Some feel that the Church is already open and not hiding things, others may back peddle a bit but none would out right say the Church lies about things. Though a few questioners in the panel discussion implied that the Church does in fact misrepresent things. I am surprised that Blake Ostler, while all for figuring out ways to present a more open history and “inoculate” the saints, is also vigorous about a few points I disagree with.
First, there seems to be this idea that the Church cannot present the more difficult issues in Sunday school, priesthood or relief society manuals because there is not enough time to do it justice and because SS and PR and RS are not for that but for learning to apply the gospel, be better and get closer to God by worship.
The first issue may have some validity. Time is limited in our Sunday worship. On the other hand we manage quite fine to cover each standard work once every four years. It seems to me a year could be devoted to a more focused course on.
The other issue, on what we focus on, seems like a hollow argument. We can talk about whatever the Church wants on Sunday. They were able to carve out time for a teacher development course. Our ward frequently runs a family history course during SS time and interested members attend that rather then GD class. Same for marriage and family courses. There is nothing that says we have to have simple basis plain vanilla teaching every Sunday that focuses on testimony and practical application of the scriptures in our lives. Until correlation came along and dumbed the lessons down there were many years where the instruction manuals focused and a variety of interesting topics. That could be done again if the Church wants to.
Next Ostler argues that the Church hides nothing, that there are lots of sources that the interested member can go to to read and study. He notes that in high school he ran into BOA problems, researched it, even tried to learn some Egyptian. If he could do it in High School anyone can find out things if they out in the effort.
A few comments. First, I submit that Blake Ostler was not the average high school student. Second, yes I agree that one can go to BYU studies, some books that Deseret Book carry (I got Mormon Enigma there) Signature Books, Dialogue and Sunstone (None of which get positive reviews by most solid LDS leaders-I always thought Sunstone was a bunch of apostates) to get info. So it is out there. How available it is or how aware many members are that it it there, especially for those away from the center of the Church I am skeptical about.
That said though the greater issues it that the Church DOES NOT provide much on this in readily available resourced that are sanctioned as the official view and literature of the Church. Institute manuals do not address these issues. But for a handful of Ensign articles over a 30 year period this church publication does not address the difficult issues. In fact the Church intentionally does not focus on the tough issues that cause major questions. Argue if you want that it is a sin of omission, and that is debatable, but the fact is the Church almost entirely writes and promotes a more faithful view of its foundations and leaves out attention to tough and hard issues.
Now last of all the conundrum is this. Blake Ostler, like other LDS apologist, seems to think that members are really responsible for learning and finding out the details of what they believe. And in a sense I agree. But as I have noted elsewhere, this is what so many are doing when they find troubling issues. Some may do it early in life, others later. But they are reading and researching and lo, they find out stuff that the Church has for whatever reason, really not disclosed much or anything about. So some take it in stride and work through it. Some though become disaffected and leave.
Did the Church lie? Is omission a lie? I do not think I would call it a blatant lie. But it certainly is far from full disclosure and thus many rightly feel angry and betrayed. It seems to me that God’s Church needs to be open and forthright. Some argue that the Church is not in the history business, that its mission is to lead people to Christ. That is true as well. But the LDS Church has a unique position in Christianity as claiming to have the authority of God and be a restoration of Christ’s Church. through Joseph Smith being called as God’s Prophet to this dispensation. Thus the history is crucial to its truth claims. It cannot bring people to Christ in the way it does without teaching about its founding and indeed it does this when missionaries teach about Joseph’s vision, the Book of Mormon and priesthood restoration. Because of this it seems to me that there is an obligation to teach and disclose more then just the more positive things.
Well said Kevin. Overall a great summary.
Thank you Aaron
Mike aesthetically awoke and turned to the jessica simpson mara shoes clock. The summary welled up in my gut.
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